Jim Porter: Party at my house? Only $3
Special to the Sun
TRUCKEE/TAHOE, Calif. and#8212; While her parents were out of town, 20-year-old Jessica Manosa hosted a party at her house. The party was publicized to friends and non-friends by word of mouth and text messaging, resulting in approximately 50 people in attendance. Sound familiar?
Manosa gave money to friends to purchase beer, tequila, and rum. The alcoholic beverages were and#8220;communaland#8221; and available without limitation to the partygoers. Unfamiliar partygoers where charged from $3 to $5. Friends were let in for free with an unofficial and#8220;bouncer.and#8221;
Thomas Garcia, a minor and unknown to Manosa, paid an admission fee and arrived intoxicated. He was rowdy and belligerent, harassing female guests and dropping his pants several times. One of Manosa’s friends, Ennabe, escorted him outside. In driving away, Garcia ran over Ennabe, killing him. Garcia was convicted and sentenced to 14 years in prison.
Ennabe’s parents sued Jessica Manosa and her parents. The Manosas defended, claiming they were and#8220;social hosts,and#8221; not selling alcohol to minors and therefore immune from a lawsuit. Ennabe’s family argued that because Jessica Manosa charged a $3 admission fee, they were and#8220;social hosts selling alcoholic beveragesand#8221; and liable for the death of their son.
The issue in the case became whether Jessica Manosa did and#8220;sell or cause to be soldand#8221; an alcoholic beverage to a minor who thereafter caused a death. This is what is called and#8220;a case of first impression,and#8221; meaning it’s the first time a court has ruled on this particular situation.
As we have written before in the Law Review, social hosts, like at a private party, are not liable for injuries caused by the consumer of their drinks unless they sell or cause to be sold any alcoholic beverage to an obviously intoxicated minor.
As to bartenders and licensed individuals, they may be liable if they sell, give or cause to be sold, furnish or give away and#8220;any alcoholic beverage to an obviously intoxicated minor.and#8221; So when the Manosa case came before the court, a social host could only be responsible if he/she sold or caused to be sold alcoholic beverages to an obviously intoxicated minor.
The Court of Appeal analyzed the cases and legislative history of California laws that generally favor those who serve alcohol, ruling that a social host who charges guests an admission or entrance fee of $3 to help defray the costs of making alcoholic beverages available to the guests is not a person who and#8220;sells, or causes to be soldand#8221; an alcoholic beverage. The Court concluded the Legislature did not intend to impose liability on social hosts and guests who contribute money to a common fund to purchase alcoholic beverages for a social occasion, even if an obviously intoxicated minor is served.
So Jessica Manosa was found not to have sold alcohol, therefore the Manosas were not responsible for Ennabe’s death.
NEW SOCIAL HOST
As of January 1, 2011, the law was changed to increase the potential liability of a social host who serves alcohol at his or her home to not only when they sell or cause to be sold any alcoholic beverage to an obviously intoxicated minor, but also when a parent, guardian, or another adult knowingly furnishes alcohol at his/her residence to a person under 21, who then goes out and injures or kills someone.
The law granting social hosts immunity from serving alcohol to minors has been drastically changed. Liability is the norm, not the exception.
Jim Porter is an attorney with Porter Simon, with offices in Truckee, South Lake Tahoe and Reno. He is a mediator and was the Governor’s appointee to the Fair Political Practices Commission and McPherson Commission, both involving election law and the Political Reform Act. He may be reached at email@example.com or at the firm’s website http://www.portersimon.com.